Since I don't post at the weekend let me take this advance opportunity to say...
In light of the Easter celebrations I have been getting all creative in the kitchen and have come up with a pretty darn special cake, even if I do say so myself. Why feign false modesty where there is none? ;)
In fact, today I am offering TWO recipes!
The first one is a quicky, some might even say a cheat recipe, since we're going to use cake mix and pre-made frosting. I don't call it cheating, I call it maximising time. It's made in mind for those of you that a) don't really bake but want to do something simple and easy to commemorate the holiday and b) are super short on time and need to throw some treats together and pronto!
The second cake is, admittedly, somewhat more labour intensive but oh so worth the time and effort. I am beyond thrilled with how it looks and it's EXACTLY as I had envisaged in my little ginger head. Cutting into it is a different matter altogether but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it...
Righty ho, aprons on, ovens at the ready... let's bake, baby!!
RECIPE 1 - Maximising your time
The brownie mix I have is from the US but you can find them in pretty much any UK supermarket and you'll usually find the Betty Crocker brand. Bit of Betty, dollop of Duncan - you'll get the same delicious results. One thing to note is that my box calls for a 13 x 9 inch (22 x 33 cm) pan and the boxes sold in Tesco, Sainsbury e.t.c. are smaller so I'd buy two or even three if I were you, depending on how many brownies you want and how big you want 'em! I decided that I wanted to make cute, individual brownie bites (there's more than a bite to them!) and used this mini rectangular loaf tin which you can get from Lakeland.
The really cool thing about this pan is that it has little removable bottoms (ooer missus!) which make extracting the brownies from the pan a delightfully effortless task. No sticking in sight!!
I'm not going to write down how to make the brownies because it's written on the back of the box and I would hate to insult your intelligence! So follow the instructions (all you're going to need are eggs, water and vegetable oil) and pour the mixture into your tin, making sure you've greased your pan with butter or spray.
And no, I DIDN'T lick the bowl.
Anyway, I have a fan assisted oven so I baked the mixture for 30 mins at a temperature of 160c (320f) and out came these little beauts, literally bursting with chocolate joy!
Let the brownies cool completely before slicing off the rounded tops. You'll want a nice, flat surface for decorating.
NOTE: DO NOT DISCARD YOUR ROUNDED TOPS! I guarantee you have some neighbours who will gladly take the scraps off your hands.
Brownies cooled? Check! Neighbours happy? Check! Time to decorate!
If time really is of the essence then you're welcome to just slap on some frosting straight out of the tub. HOWEVER, since it was so quick and easy to make the brownies why not invest a little time (we're talking ten minutes max!) making your brownies bites look as good as they taste!
First things first - we're going to dye the frosting. Not as difficult as it sounds, honest. I used yellow food colouring which you should be able to find in most shops, if not, order online. Keep on adding drops and stirring until you get the shade you're after. I desired a bright, canary, eastery yellow and that's what I got.
At this stage you have the option to smother on your icing as is OR you could pipe it on in a pretty pattern. It all comes down to time and preference. I prefer taking 5 minutes to pipe because it just looks neater and more pleasing to the eye. But let me stress, you can ditch this part of the process, I don't want it to put you off. But if you do decide to put your piping skills to the test, here's how it could look:
Only one thing left to do and that is to decorate them with chicks or bunnies or eggs or whatever Easter theme takes your fancy. Aaaw! Don't they look cute???
From start to finish I reckon it would take you less than an hour to make these Easter treats. 30 mins to bake, 20 minutes to cool and 10 minutes to decorate. CHICKTASTIC!
RECIPE 2 - TAKE YOUR TIME
The basis of this creation is a four layer chocolate cake. I used THIS chocolate cake recipe from Martha Stewart simply because I had never tried it before and wanted to give it a bash! It also looked pretty straight forward and it was - you basically throw everything into the mixer at once. Her recipe makes two layers so I simply doubled the ingredients and poured them into four 7 inch cake pans. I was really pleased with how they turned out.
While the cakes chilled out I prepared the cream cheese chocolate frosting. (Did you just salivate upon reading that??) I always, always use the same recipe from the Hummingbird bakery. It has never failed to turn out perfectly sweet, creamy and chocolatey so why would I look elsewhere?
Here's what you need:
- 200g/7oz/2 cups icing sugar (powder sugar), sifted
- 75g/30z/1-2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 30g/20z/1-4 cocoa powder, sifted
- 150g/50z/1 cup cream cheese, cold
And here's what you do:
- Beat together the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
- Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.
NOTE: I QUADRUPLED the recipe for our towering four layer creation. I did have some left over but I'd rather have extra than be caught with my frosting pants down!
Once you've finished making the frosting and have allowed the cakes to cool completely it's time for Operation Assembly!
Take a layer, any layer. Smother on some frosting then sandwich another layer on top of that. And so on and so forth.
The frosting will splurge out in all directions and it will be very tempting to lick your way around the cake (or is that just me?).
Now you're going to slather the top layer in frosting and then take a knife, preferably a palette knife, and smoothen things out a bit. Doesn't have to be super smooth because you won't see the sides once we've finished attaching our Easter embellishments! So in a sense your frosting is acting like highly edible glue. Just don't sniff it.
Here is the part where you well and truly go to town! And I literally did just that - went to town to buy all the treats and goodies I wanted on my cake. I choose some white and milk chocolate bunnies and made good use of the Easter M & M's I brought back from over The Pond.
Once the bunnies were in position I planted some grass. Yes, I did say grass. Out of fondant of course.
NOTE: If you cut out shapes/make objects out of fondant then it needs a good two to three days in the open air to dry out before you try and attach it to your cakes. I found this out the hard way so learn from my mistakes, Warriors!
It was all coming together as per my creative vision!
Just the picket fence left to put up, call in the animals from the barn and choose a lucky creature to be our Easter topper. And a subtle one of course. I'm all about subtlety. Ok, appropriate animal duly selected.
Are you ready, Warriors?? On the count of three!
So what you do you think, Warriors? You like?? Let me know! I just wish I could invite you all over for a slice. You will all be there with me in (Easter) spirit.
Wishing you and yours an Easter full of love, happiness and copious amounts of chocolate.